Best Fishing Coolers Compared and Reviewed: 2021 Buying Guide
Best Fishing Coolers Compared and Reviewed: 2021 Buying Guide

Best Fishing Coolers Compared and Reviewed: 2021 Buying Guide

You might be looking for a fishing cooler and are wondering if it’s worth the high price tag.

The answer likely is yes.

Premium fishing coolers offer a remarkable initial investment that will last for decades. They also have a long-term financial benefit. You can save money every year by spending a little more on your coolers now.

Before you spend your hard-earned cash, it is important to understand which models and brands are worth the investment. We are here to help!

Below is a buying guide and reviews of the top fishing coolers.

Under 50 quarts

  • Yeti Tundra 45– The Best Premium Small Fishing Cooler
  • Grizzly Kenai 45– The Best Small Fishing Cooler For Money
  • Pelican Products ProGear Elite– The Best Small Fishing Cooler on Wheels

Over 50 quarts

  • Yeti Tundra 65– The Best Premium Big Fishing Cooler
  • Grizzly 60
  • Igloo IMX– The Best Big Fishing Cooler For Money

The Best Fishing Coolers – Reviewed

Under 50 quarts

Yeti Tundra 45- The Best Premium Small Fishing Cooler

YETI Tundra 45 Cooler, White

Capacity: 45 quarts

Weight: 23 lbs.

Dimensions: 25 3/4″ x 16 1/8″ x 15 3/8″.

Yeti Tundra 45 uses the most advanced tech, materials, and engineering money can purchase. And, like all premium coolers, you can expect to have to pay for it.

This is a cooler job!

Tundra 45 is built on thick sides and has lots of thermal mass. It’s amazing at retaining ice when properly pre-cooled. It’s not uncommon for the Tundra 45 to retain ice for up to four days.

This is not uncommon in coolers of the top-echelon, but the Yeti’s build quality is exceptional.

The company claims that the product is “bear-proof”, and I believe it. Solid latches and bullet-proof hinges are what you get for your hard-earned money.

You can expect drain plugs made of premium quality and screw-in designs. They are as leak-proof and durable as they come.

They are also comfortable and support the cooler’s weight with cordage that is more than strong enough to do the job. They protect your hands and make it easier to lift and move a full cooler.

This is crucial because a 23-pound cooler and a 12-pound bag of ice, some beverages, and 20 pounds of fish can quickly add up.

The white color option will prolong the life of your ice. Keep the Tundra 45 as far as possible out of direct sunlight.

Pros

  • Pre-cooled products have excellent ice retention rates
  • Bomb-proof durability
  • Superb handle design
  • Excellent drain plugs
  • Great hinge design
  • Highly durable finish

Cons

  • It’s expensive!
  • Coolers that are less expensive and less efficient at insulating are heavier than less effective coolers.

Grizzly Kenai 45- The Best Small Fishing Cooler For Money

KENAI 45 Cooler, Orange, 45 QT, Made in USA

Capacity: 45 quarts

26 lbs.

Dimensions: 28 1/4″ x 16 1/4″ x 15 83/100

Kenai is currently building what has been called a “Yeti Killer,” and from what I can tell it is living up to this title.

The Kenai 45 is a third cheaper than the Yeti and offers almost the same performance. The Yeti is a great choice if you want to invest in a name brand, but the Kenai 45 is a better option if you are looking to save some money.

The Kenai is similar to the Yeti. It relies on thick sides and lots of insulation. Even in extreme temperatures, pre-cooled can produce incredible ice retention times. People can expect to have a 5-7 day ice life. This means that they can keep whatever they are storing cold for a week.

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Seriously, customers who have trouble keeping ice a solid are not following the instructions.

Although the Kenai and Yeti have the same latch, hinge, drain plug, and carrying handle designs, I prefer the subtle variations offered by Yeti. However, only you will be able to decide if they are worth the extra money.

Regardless of any slight improvements made by the Yeti, it’s clear that the Kenai is tougher than nails. It will withstand years of abuse from the sun, bumps, and drops.

The Kenai, at 3 pounds more, is heavier than the Yeti. The Yeti may be a better option if you are concerned about your weight.

Pros

  • A premium cooler at a great price
  • Pre-cooled products have excellent ice retention rates
  • Bomb-proof durability
  • Superb handle design
  • Excellent drain plugs
  • Great hinge design
  • Highly durable finish

Cons

  • The Yeti is heavier than the Yeti
  • Coolers that are less expensive and less efficient at insulating are heavier than less effective coolers.

Pelican Products ProGear Elite- The Best Small Fishing Cooler on Wheels

Pelican Elite 45 Quart Cooler (White)

Capacity: 45 quarts

Weight: 37.25 pounds

Dimensions: 29 3/4″ x 20 1/2″ x 19 1/4″

Pelican Products ProGear Elite, a wheeled cooler, is ideal for anglers who have to walk long distances to get to their boats or access points. Although it is not as easy as the Yeti or Kenai to lift, this cooler can be transported across large parking lots, along an endless boardwalk, and over a crushed-shell parking space adjacent to a boat launch.

You can also use the cooler to transport a large amount of food, such as a fishing boat, for camping, picnicking, and tailgating.

The ProGear Elite has the same technology as the Yeti or Kenai for ice retention. This cooler can be used as a refrigerator even in hot conditions if it is properly pre-cooled. You can expect ice to form after days spent outdoors. This is far more than customers would like from a 45-quart cooler.

The build quality is superb, but it is more designed for rolling than lifting.

These wheels are very durable and will spin on anything except loose sand. To make the wheels engage, lift the handle high enough that the feet are not touching the ground. This clever design reduces the stress that rests on the wheel.

They are simple, with a molded design. However, they are not as comfortable as the Kenai or Yeti handles. You won’t use them when the cooler is full. At a little more than 37 pounds empty, anyone who lifts this cooler into a truck bed or boat will be unable to lift it into a trunk.

Although the quality of the latches, hinges and the drain plug is excellent, they are not as durable as those found on the Yeti or Kenai.

This cooler is recommended to anglers who need long walks and really need it. If you don’t need the wheels for long walks, it might be worth looking at one of our other models.

Pros

  • Pre-cooled products have excellent ice retention rates
  • Great wheels
  • Good durability
  • Good handle design
  • Good drain plugs
  • Good hinge design
  • Highly durable finish

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Coolers of comparable size are heavier than coolers of similar weight
  • Coolers that are less expensive and less efficient at insulating are heavier than less effective coolers.
  • This product is clearly designed to be rolled, not lifted.

Over 50 quarts

Yeti Tundra 65- The Best Premium Big Fishing Cooler

YETI Tundra 65 Cooler, Desert Tan

Capacity: 65 quarts

Weight: 29 lbs.

Dimensions: 30 1/2″ x 17 1/2″ x 16

The Yeti Tundra 45 is basically the 65’s bigger brother. It offers everything you love about the smaller cooler but in a larger size. You can expect premium components, but you will have to pay more!

The Tundra 65 is great for longer fishing trips and larger groups. It’s an excellent choice for those times when cooler spaces are scarce. There’s plenty of space to store all your gear.

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The Tundra 65 is pre-cooled and will keep your fish and drinks at arctic temperatures for several days. It also has unbeatable ice retention times. That’s thanks to thick walls and tons of insulation. It also has a thermal mass that keeps your drinks cold.

The 45’s hinges, handles, and latches are identical to the 45’s. These are the words you should remember when thinking about how much money you will spend on this cool cooler.

While the handles are nice for the 45, they really shine on the 65. They can support full weights of over 80 pounds. You’ll be grateful you have them.

I would recommend that you use the white color to reduce heat absorption.

Pros

  • Pre-cooled products have excellent ice retention rates
  • Bomb-proof durability
  • Exceptional handle design
  • Excellent drain plugs
  • Great hinge design
  • Highly durable finish

Cons

  • It’s expensive!
  • Coolers that are less expensive and less efficient at insulating are heavier than less effective coolers.

Grizzly 60

Grizzly 60 Cooler, Orange, G60, 60 QT

Capacity: 60 quarts

Weight: 30 lbs.

Dimensions: Size: 30 3/8″ x 17 3/8″ x 17 1/4″.

Surprisingly the Grizzly 60 doesn’t just look like the Kenai 45. It is a large cooler that can stand on its own. It’s tough and well-insulated, so it can compete with the Yeti.

Let’s begin with the good.

The handles of the Grizzly 60 offer comfort and strength, allowing for grip and reassuring stability under heavy loads. The latches, hinges, and other hardware are also solid and well-made and will last a long time. The same goes for the drain plug.

Grizzly clearly thought through this design carefully. There’s no-fault. You can expect quality that is on par with Yeti.

However, the Yeti has the edge in terms of ice retention. In a head-to-head comparison, it seems that the Grizzly can’t keep ice as long as the Yeti.

Normal, I wouldn’t think that. But here’s the rub: The Grizzly 60 is available at a similar price point as the Yeti.

Why should you pay more for ice?

Pros

  • Pre-cooled products have excellent ice retention rates
  • Bomb-proof durability
  • Superb handle design
  • Excellent drain plugs
  • Excellent hinge design
  • Highly durable finish

Cons

  • It’s expensive!
  • Ice can’t be kept as long as the Yeti.

Igloo IMX – The Best Big Fishing Cooler For Money

Igloo IMX 70 Quart Lockable Insulated Ice Chest Roto-Molded Cooler with Carry Handles, Tan

Capacity: 70 quarts

Weight: 25.8 lbs.

Dimensions: 31 11/100″, x 20 8/25″, x 18 1/4″

Igloo is a well-known name in coolers. However, it has been overshadowed by high-tech names like Yeti.

The IMX is a great option and is significantly less expensive than other options. It also has a comparable ice retention time.

The IMX has all the features you would expect from a competitor: solid hinges and latches; a screw-in drain plug; and strong, comfortable handles.

Actually, I love the handles of the IMX a lot. They’re probably the best!

It’s not as tough as the Yeti or Grizzly, but you get a lot more durability when you choose those options.

Pre-cooled ice retains water well for a long time. Customers report that they can keep the ice hard for up to 10 days if they take care. This makes it a great buy for long fishing trips.

The IMX has plenty of storage space and is surprisingly light at only 26 pounds. Although the cooler is heavier than the 60s, it’s lighter when full.

The Igloo IMX premium option is a great choice if you are looking for a low-cost, premium option.

Pros

  • Great price for the performance
  • Excellent ice retention rates, especially when pre-cooled
  • Very durability
  • Excellent handle design
  • Superb drain plugs
  • Great hinge design
  • Highly durable finish
  • Lighter than the competitors

Cons

  • It is not as durable as the Yeti or Grizzly.

How to Choose a Fishing Cooler

Durability

A marine cooler will see more heat and sun than models that you might see at a tailgating party.

Although it may seem small, long-term UV exposure can cause damage to plastics.

Coolers are expensive so make sure they last. From blistering to warpage to cracks to compromised gaskets to broken drain plugs, I have seen it all.

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Durable fishing coolers are the best.

These will have strong handles, bomb-proof hinges, and indestructible drain plugs. The exterior finish is UV resistant.

Time for ice retention

No sweat, every cooler on this list will keep you ice-cold all day.

You will need to pay for ice retention that is measured in days, not hours.

For some anglers, however, this is not enough.

You might find that your ice retention time is measured in days instead of hours if you are planning to go canoe fishing for long distances. My friends who went down to Yucatan to catch bass were so far from the nearest source of fresh ice that it was difficult to find new ice. They had to rely on the water from Texas and what they had.

These situations can make it very difficult to retain ice for long periods of time.

All of the coolers that we recommend will keep your Ice frozen. If you use the right icing techniques, it will last at least four days.

  • Get a pre-chilled cooler to start. Before you start loading your “using” Ice, chill your cooler with a bag.
  • Mix bagged regular ice with large ice, such as frozen plastic bottles. Ice cubes melt faster and chill contents quicker than ice. Ice cubes can be mixed with large chunks of frozen food to extend their shelf life.
  • Reduce space your ice will quickly melt if it hasn’t been filled with air pockets or space. You can fill that space with tightly packed towels and then remove the filler as soon as you add fish.
  • Avoid direct sunlight this is an obvious one. If possible, keep your cooler out of direct sunlight.
  • Do not drain the water. Don’t drain water unless you are trying to lose weight or preserve food. It is very, very cold. This will extend the shelf life of your ice.
  • Keep the lid shut –Hot air is released every time the cooler is opened. Only lift the lid if you absolutely have to.

Handles

This is a crucial aspect in selecting a cooler.

For large coolers such as this 70-quart Igloo, it is important to have strong and comfortable handles.

If you’re fortunate, you might end your day with a full cooler filled with fish. As you will undoubtedly have learned, 20 pounds of ice, ten pounds of cooler, and 50 pounds of redfish can quickly add up!

Cooler handles have been damaged by this weight.

You want to choose the strongest handles possible, and ensure they don’t eat your hands if the cooler is full.

Drain plugs

It is crucial to use good drain plugs.

For long-lasting service, drain plugs that are screwed in, such as this Yeti one, are crucial.

I have fished in areas where the cooler water was not meant for drinking.

You will need the plugs for water escape from your cooler far more often than you might think.

While most designs work well, the problem is often durability over time.

You want sturdy designs that won’t fail after a few months in direct sunlight.

Size

My experience is that 50 quarts are the ideal cut-off.

You will have no trouble fitting this tuna in a small cooler.

This is how I see it: 50 quarts of ice is sufficient for most species for day fishing. If you are planning a multi-day trip, where you will be storing all of your catch in one cooler, then go bigger.

If you do your job well, 50 quarts will not be enough!

Last Thoughts

You will need to spend a little more to get the best fishing cooler performance. The ice retention and durability you get will be well worth the extra money.

We hope that we have helped you make the right decision for you and your budget. As always, we would love to hear from and help you!

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.